Sikur joins secure smartphone race with $849 handset

Privacy commands a steep premium in the smartphone market, as the GranitePhone's pricetag shows

With the GranitePhone, the latest entry into the market for secure smartphones, Sikur is hoping that people will put a high price on their privacy.

The phone, first shown at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, is on sale now, according to security software developer Sikur and the phone's manufacturer, Archos. 

The GranitePhone contains Qualcomm's 64-bit, eight-core SnapDragon 615 processor, the same CPU as the Archos Diamond 50 smartphone, to which the Granite bears more than a passing resemblance. Other features of the Diamond 50 shared by the GranitePhone include 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 5-inch, Full-HD screen, 16-megapixel front and 8-megapixel rear cameras, a 2700-mAh battery and access to 4G mobile networks.

But where the Diamond 50 cost just €200 (US$225), the GranitePhone is priced at $849 in Sikur's Web store. Shipping is extra.

Sikur is hoping that people will pay the extra in order to use its software, both in the phone and in the cloud. Where the Diamond 50 runs Android 4.4.4 (Kitkat), the GranitePhone runs Sikur's GraniteOS, providing access to cloud-based storage and other services.

The company is providing few details of the software for now, but its claims are dramatic: "We managed to design a completely secure, private and productive device, eliminating any breach against your privacy, data theft and espionage," its website says. The phone offers an "Extremely private and secure environment" with "various authentication layers," "high levels of encryption" and a "secure operating system" with "no backdoors," according to the website.

Archos (a big player in France, at least) isn't putting its brand on the GranitePhone: It's producing it through its contract-manufacturing subsidiary, Logic Instrument, leaving Sikur the only name on the box.

Sikur has offices in the U.S., Brazil and Dubai, but lists no staff on its website: People may not be willing to plunk down $849 for a phone from a relative unknown that appears to have only one other product, a white-label secure collaboration platform that provides email, chat, document sharing and storage services.

On the other hand, the BlackPhone 2, a secure, private smartphone with similar ambitions to the GranitePhone, has a bigger screen, more memory and storage -- and costs $150 less. For those genuinely concerned about their privacy, it also has the advantage of numbering well-known encryption software specialists among its designers, including Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP.

Other phone privacy options include an ultra-secure BlackBerry locked down with the company's SecuSmart microSD card and software at around $2000 -- although this also requires server infrastructure that further adds to the cost -- and a similarly expensive microSD-based system built into a Samsung Electronics smartphone by Swedish company Sectra.

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